Fishing lines: Caught cold by the conmen with cameras

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The Independent Online

Some angling journalists, sad to relate, think ethics is a maker of plastic airplane kits. It is their fault that I spent much of this week tromping around the World Travel Market ("Crisis? What crisis?") at London's Earl's Court this week.

Some angling journalists, sad to relate, think ethics is a maker of plastic airplane kits. It is their fault that I spent much of this week tromping around the World Travel Market ("Crisis? What crisis?") at London's Earl's Court this week.

If you're wondering what prompted this outburst of righteous indignation, let me tell you a little story. A notorious "fishing writer" had wangled yet another all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic destination. He promised the tourist board he would return with albums of pictures showing his angling prowess, and persuaded a magazine to prepare for photos of a near-record marlin.

In fishing circles, this man is well known for his freeloading talents. But the world's a big place; there are always new areas where a sharp talker can con someone into paying for his fishing.

To reinforce his story, he had an impressive portfolio of photographs. However, his favourite trick was to hang around when a boat arrived back in port. If a big fish was unloaded, he would have his picture taken alongside it. The same picture would then appear in a magazine or newspaper with our man as the captor. (His latest ruse, I'm told, is to use computer software to delete the original captor and replace himself. Shameless, or what?)

Anyway, back to our story. Despite collaring free accommodation at the area's best hotel and free fishing on the best boat, our hero had failed to catch his promised marlin. With a day to go, his situation was desperate.

Details of the next part are understandably hazy, but our man either bought or borrowed a marlin caught by Japanese longliners.

The final day was poor too. No marlin. But he was unworried. A big marlin was waiting for him back in port. And the Japanese were as good as their word. He went to the warehouse where they had promised to store it – only to step back in horror. The Japanese, eager to please, had not only gutted the fish and cut off its fins, but had also decapitated it and cut it into neat sections.

It's a good story, but bad news for the Angling Writers' Association. This man is not an isolated maverick. Many destinations are understandably cautious about inviting any fishing writer over their threshold if they have been stung in the past. So at the World Travel Market, we prepared a document for every tourist board, saying: "Check it out with us at the AWA if you're running a fishing trip, or asking someone to assess a destination's potential. We'll tell you if they are kosher." It has the small but significant benefit that this could result in some rather nice trips for members.

Because I arrived late, the others had already carved up which member would be in charge of which destinations. As the last to arrive, guess what I got? The UK and the cold bits of Europe and Asia. So if there are press trips to Serbia, Siberia or Scarborough, Albania, Azerbaijan or Aberdeen, I'm the first point of contact.

I feel I got rather the worst of that little idea.



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